Community gathering: Camp Chesed, Idan Raichel and Omri Casspi

1] Camp Chesed, a free camp for Jewish kids with special needs, is staffed entirely by volunteering teens. Photos by James Shubert  

2] Chesed campers enjoyed a summertime trip to Disneyland with their teen counselors and family members.   

3] The Jewish Federation’s Carol Koransky was honored for her 25 years of service to the community at a June 6 dinner in Encino establishing an endowment in her name, seen here with Federation President Jay Sanderson. Photo by Marvin Steindler  

4] Singer-songwriter-producer and Israeli superstar Idan Raichel was interviewed on stage by The Jewish Journal’s Danielle Berrin during an Aug. 4 MATI event. Photos by Eitan Bino  

5] Raichel sang pared-down versions of his wildly popular songs and introduced his new album, “Traveling Home.”   

6] The Calabasas Malibu Wine & Food Festival, held June 18 and honoring Barbara Lazaroff for her many contributions to the community, featured celebrity chefs, dozens of Valley restaurants and, of course, plenty of wine. Photos by Wayne Lu  

7] Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, spent five days in June training 87 boys and girls on basketball basics and proper nutrition for athletes at the West Hills JCC.

TRIBE Gathering: Santa Barbara Jewish Festival, Stand By Me, Food & Cultural Festival

Dressed in traditional Middle Eastern garb, a UC Santa Barbara Middle East Ensemble dancer performs at the Santa Barbara Jewish Festival heralding Israel’s 63rd Independence Day. Photo by Eyal Nahmias  

Free and open to the public, the May 15 Santa Barbara Jewish Festival included entertainment by Kol Sephardic Choir, Cantor Mark Childs, the Ventura Klezmer Band and Mikey Pauker & The Tribe. Photo by Eyal Nahmias    

Body painting, games, a “mishpachah” stage with kids’ comedy and a costume parade were a few of the family-friendly attractions at the Santa Barbara festival. Photo by Violeta Palombo Levy  

Stand By Me, a nonprofit dedicated to caring for cancer patients within the Jewish Israeli community, held its second gala event June 18 in Tarzana. Founder Gabe Ostrow is flanked by two supporters. Photos by Shabby Cohen  

Singer Gilat Rapaport volunteered her talents for the Stand By Me gala, as did the InJoy Orchestra, Ram2 and DJ Gil. 

CRUNCH! Kids enjoy certified kosher pickles on a stick at the Santa Clarita Valley’s Jewish Food & Cultural Festival on May 15, which boasted the world’s largest falafel ball. Photo by Adrienne Folde

TRIBE Gathering: Prom Prep 101, Friendship Circle, Santa Barbara Jewish Festival

Teen girls living in foster care were treated to a day of glamour at Valley Beth Shalom’s Prom Prep 101 April 10.  Photos by Morris Kagan   

The approximately 100 girls at the event selected prom dresses, shoes and accessories — all of which were donated by various vendors.    

Professional makeup artists and hair stylists volunteered their time to give the girls at Prom Prep the star treatment.    

Teen girls living in foster care were treated to a day of glamour at Valley Beth Shalom’s Prom Prep 101 April 10.  Photos by Morris Kagan   

Hundreds of participants, including children served by Friendship Circle, made the 5K trek in Agoura Hills.      

Dignitaries, including Rabbi Moshe Bryski of Chabad of the Conejo, Westlake Mayor Ned Davis and Carol Koransky of The Jewish Federation, cut the starting line ribbon.    

Renowned violinist Endre Balogh performed a Bach Sonata at the Santa Barbara Jewish Festival kickoff event on April 17.    

To have your event included in gathering, e-mail {encode=”” title=””}

Gathering: Valley Performing Arts Center, Tifani Coyot, Matisyahu, Herzog Wine Cellars

Dr. Gerald Picus and former L.A. City Councilwoman Joy Picus celebrated the gala opening of the $125 million Valley Performing Arts Center on Jan. 29. The two-hour star-studded event at California State University, Northridge, drew Valley performers, including Jane Kaczmarek, Noah Wyle, Nancy Cartwright, Dave Koz and Cheech Marin, as well as 1,700 guests.

Tifani Coyot, holding the Torah, was installed as cantor at Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills during Shabbat services on Jan. 28. Preschool families continued the celebration during morning services, and an installation gala welcomed Coyot on Saturday evening.   

Matisyahu, seen with Rabbi Moshe Bryski, executive director of Chabad of the Conejo, performed an acoustic concert, “Matisyahu Unplugged,” at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Jan. 15. Comedian Mendy Pellin served as emcee during the evening, a benefit for Chabad of the Conejo’s building campaign, which drew 1,700 people. Photo by David Miller Studios. 

Students at Temple Adat Elohim’s Hebrew School used socks to simulate the difficulty some disabled children and adults experience in everyday life. The synagogue’s annual Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month fair brings together families to sensitize and introduce children to the challenges faced by people with disabilities. Photo by Cyndi Levenson.   

Rep. Brad Sherman,  left,  joined Rabbi Moshe Bryski in presenting Mosab Yousef with an American flag during the “Son of Hamas” lecture on Feb. 21, which drew 1,000 people to the Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel. Yousef, who was disowned and denounced by his father, a leader in the Hamas movement, worked covertly to assist the Jewish state and provided information that prevented dozens of suicide attacks. 

Addie Lupert, Rick Lupert and Cantor Jen Roher performed during “Sing Unto God a New Song,” an erev Shabbat service tribute to the life and legacy of Debbie Friedman, at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge on Feb. 4. Photo by Al Lapides. 

Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard hosted the fourth annual International Food & Wine Festival on Feb. 16. Guests sampled kosher wines as well as Mediterranean fare from Tierra Sur chef Todd Aarons.

The Jewish accent’s on France at FeujLA

Ça va?” — French for “How’s it going?” — was the first thing out of the mouths of the 50 or so attendees last Thursday at the bimonthly FeujLA gathering, which included live music at a private residence in West Hollywood.

With a name derived from the slang word feuj — for Jew — with L.A. tagged on, this hip crowd of young French and some Francophiles came together to catch up with friends, meet new people and listen to and perform favorite Hebrew and Jewish songs.

FeujLA serves as a resource for the French Jewish community ages 18 to 35, especially when it comes to visa issues, education questions, job inquiries or even a place to go for Shabbat. The organization also boasts three official couples who are either married or engaged.

Leader David Hini-Szlos, 28, plans at least biweekly Wednesday dinner gatherings for the group, which tend to take place at Bistro Baguette Café at Wilshire and La Cienega boulevards, where the French owners are hospitable and allow the group to stay awhile.

The group — which has a Web site that features information about regular soccer and volleyball games, and a mailing list of about 200 — is largely Sephardic Jews of Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan descent. There are also some recent arrivals from Tahiti.

FeujLA was started five years ago as a French Torah-reading group, so it has always had a religious bent. Many involved in the group have Modern Orthodox backgrounds, but some are secular. FeujLA’s bimonthly gatherings continue to include a rabbi and a sermon.

Most of the participants have no immediate family nearby.

“When your family is abroad, you try to find a place to gather,” said Marc Benguigui, 38.

Thursday’s musical event also featured Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj of the Chabad of UC San Diego speaking about how music can connect to one’s soul, which goes beyond the boundary of the body.

When Laurence Harroch faced a personal issue two years ago, the 29-year-old said her FeujLA friends were there to help her in many ways, she believes, that might not have happened in Paris.

“Here it’s like living in a community,” Harroch, said.

For more information, e-mail or visit Reality radio goes kosher

Mellow Israel Fest Draws 42,000

Maybe it was the relatively cool weather on Sunday. Or maybe it was the stepped-up participation of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. But more people than ever attended this year’s Israel Independence Day Festival at Woodley Park in Van Nuys. Organizers put the crowd estimate at about 42,000, a couple of thousand more than last year.

It also helped that organizers did outreach to the Russian community. And that they inked Mashina, a band of aging but still rockin’ Israeli heartthrobs, which headlined a full day of music. As usual, there were activities for children, a long line of kosher food concessions and booths representing dozens of Jewish and Israeli organizations.

Last year’s event was notable for its orange-tinted crowd — the color symbolized solidarity with Gaza’s Jewish settlers, who faced a pending eviction by the Israeli government (see story on page 11). This year, post-eviction, the political posturing was more diffuse and not especially apparent.

“The outstanding thing was that everything went very smooth — no problems,” said Yoram Gutman, the festival’s executive director.

‘New’ Farrakhan Embodies Old Message

Last weekend, the nation’s capital hosted the Millions More March, a gathering commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Nation of Islam’s

Million Man March. The Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the main convener of the march, led tens of thousands in a daylong marathon of blame, calls for “self-help” and extremism.

Aware of the media attention that was focused on him, Farrakhan delivered his lengthy keynote address full of his unusual notions and his analysis of the state of race relations in America. He avoided the hate-filled rhetoric of which he is so capable, choosing instead to present the “new” Farrakhan to the wider-than-usual audience and the assembled media.

But the mask is transparent. Farrakhan’s incendiary message of division is all too obvious, in fact glaringly apparent to those who bother to look. The media, once again, failed to discern the message of division that is at the heart of the Nation of Islam’s credo and the grab bag of extremists who paraded to the podium throughout the day.

Joining Farrakhan on the stage were some of the march’s endorsers who have apparently chosen to ignore the unsavory parts of his program. The pre-march endorsers included Coretta Scott King, Maya Angelou, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and the Rev. Al Sharpton. These leaders seem to think that the good reverend is a genuine builder of bridges intent on bettering America

Farrakhan and his minions around the country work hard to create an image of him as an elder statesman in the civil rights and religious world, one who really seeks racial and religious harmony. The “new” Farrakhan has been able to travel the country, meeting with myriad elected officials, opining on national and international affairs and be treated as a seemingly rational molder of opinion. The altered image seems almost to have stuck.

But Farrakhan is not a healer, and all the marches he convenes or sanitized speeches he delivers while C-SPAN is on won’t change the divisive message that is at the heart of his and the Nation of Islam’s rhetoric. He may mute and soften his message on occasion, but in the press of events and crisis, the real message of Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam emerges.

Most recently, his leitmotif of dividing America and sowing suspicion among races came to the surface through his thin veneer of moderation. In the wake of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, there was one voice which had a different take than virtually all others — one that didn’t talk of post-hurricane incompetence, tardy assistance or poor co-ordination, but rather spoke of a willful government effort “to destroy the city where black people lived.” That voice was Farrakhan’s.

In speeches that have received virtually no serious media attention, Farrakhan has unashamedly suggested that one of the levees “may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry.”

This is a horrible thing to think that somebody would do, but all one needs to understand is our history and black-white relations in this country, and what some are capable of doing out of envy and desire for political and economic advancement. “[The United States] has some very wicked people in high places if you look at our history,” Farrakhan insisted.

Farrakhan didn’t misspeak in a moment of high energy. He hasn’t retracted or modified his incendiary allegations, in fact, he has expanded on them. He has alleged on several occasions over the past few weeks that a levee was blown up to drown the pre-dominantly black sections of New Orleans — murder on a massive scale

In 2005, when it is hard for comments of anyone to go unnoticed or un-Googled, it is difficult to fathom why responsible leaders would tolerate, let alone endorse, the advocate of such inflammatory and divisive views. How can Jackson, et al., lend their names to a demagogue who so cravenly and dangerously exploits one of the worst tragedies in recent American history? There is no message of self-empowerment or reorganizing black America that can sanitize this incendiary message that has no basis in fact.

Farrakhan’s consorting with the likes of the hateful Malik Zulu Shabazz (co-convener of the March) and the homophobic Rev. Willie Wilson (executive director of the Millions More Movement who has decried growing female independence, because it results in “our women becoming lesbian”) clearly hasn’t tainted him sufficiently for the civil rights leaders to keep their distance until now. Shouldn’t these comments alleging mass racial murder finally have opened their eyes?

Twenty years ago, as the head of a local civil rights organization, I wrote an op-ed about a visit to Los Angeles by Farrakhan. I warned of the danger of thinking that one could parse Farrakhan’s message of “self-empowerment” from his then even more blatant bigotry and inflammatory rhetoric: “For decades, human rights, educational and liberal organizations have labored to indelibly imprint on the psyche of every young American that hate — no matter how neatly packaged, no matter the appeal of its purveyor — is outside the acceptable political lexicon of our society.”

Today the message is just as apt. The ethos that rejects hate and its messenger is even more vital in this increasingly diverse society. Demagoguery and the intent to divide and inflame is simply unacceptable.

The Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons can’t legitimize a divider like Farrakhan because it’s convenient and suits their purposes, and then hope to be taken seriously as genuine pursuers of equal opportunity and civil rights. A bigot and racist has to be denounced and isolated, not winked at and lionized.

David Lehrer is president of Community Advocates (


The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed or

faxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least three

weeks in advance to:

By Keren Engelberg




B’nai Tikvah: 6:30 p.m. Hot Dogs and Havdallah Under the Stars. Candle- and spice box-making follows. $15 (per family). 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Westchester. R.S.V.P., (310) 645-6414.


The Emmis Foundation: “The Big Lie: News, Media and the Fiction of Nonfiction” featuring Harvey Sheldon on the untold story of the news media and the Holocaust. 7855 E. Horizon View Drive, Anaheim Hills. (714) 281-5929.


Consulate General of Israel L.A.: 2003 Israeli Academy Award-winner “Nina’s Tragedies,” a film about an Israeli boy, opens this week. Laemmle’s Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood.

April 3 /SUNDAY


Skirball Cultural Center: 10 a.m.-
4:30 p.m. “Discover Your Personal Exodus Story: A Passover Seminar for People of All Faiths.” Lectures on history and art history, a writing workshop, hands-on ceramics and tour of the holidays gallery. $20-$60, plus $10 for ceramics workshop. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4651.


Hillel Foundation of Orange County/ Israel on Campus Coalition of Orange County/Caravan for Democracy/ StandWithUs: 8:30 a.m. (Sun.)-6 p.m. (Mon.). “Making the Case for Israel: A Two-Day Conference Presenting an Accurate Picture of Middle East Reality.” $36 (students), $75 (per day, nonstudents). UC Irvine and Merage Jewish Community Center, 1 Federation Way, Suite 200, Irvine. (800) 969-5585, ext. 247.

Beth Hillel Day School: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Designer Apparel Fundraiser with up to 93 percent off the original retail. Free admission. Temple Beth Hillel Activities Building, 12326 Riverside Drive, Valley Village. (818) 986-9052.

Temple Isaiah: 11:30 a.m. Steve Platt memorial “Par-tee” Golf Tournament. Golf, light lunch, refreshments, tee prizes and buffet dinner with awards and drawing. $250. Canyon Country Club, 1100 Murray Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 325-2281.

Valley Beth Shalom Jewish Vegetarian Society: 2 p.m. Dr. Shirley Hon discusses “Protein – Myths and Facts.” Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 349-2581.

Workmen’s Circle: 4 p.m. Comedian Howard Berger opens for Jeff-Chaim Goldberg, who performs original songs and Jewish music. $5-$10. 1525 S. Robertson Ave., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 552-2007.
Congregation B’nai Emet: 7 p.m. Barbara Lanzet leads a discussion on “The April Dilemma” for interfaith families celebrating Passover and Easter. Part two of an interfaith program sponsored by Jewish Federation.
4645 Industrial St., No. 2C, Simi Valley. (800) 581-3723.

New Community Jewish High School: 7 p.m. Students perform Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” with lighting, sound, sets and choreography by industry professionals. Also, April 4, 7 p.m. $7-$12. The New JCC at Milken, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills.
(818) 348-0048.

April 4/MONDAY


Bais Chana of California Women’s Yeshiva: 11 a.m. “Painlessly Preparing for a Panic-Free Pesach” with Esther Simon. $18. Los Angeles Residence. R.S.V.P., (323) 634-1861.

April 5 /TUESDAY


Stanford Jewish Alumni of Los Angeles: 7 p.m. Book signing with Vincent Brook, author of “Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the ‘Jewish’ Sitcom” followed by vegetarian appetizers and Herzog Cellars’ kosher wines. Beverly Hills residence. $24. R.S.V.P. by April 1, (213) 763-7377.



Jewish World Watch: 7:30 p.m. Ruth Messinger discusses “Genocide in Sudan.” Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.
(310) 474-1518, ext. 3243.

Cinema Bar: 8:30 p.m. Peter Himmelman concert. 3967 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. (310) 390-1328.

” width=”1″ height=”30″>

University of Judaism: 8 p.m. “Memory and the Monument After 9/11” a slide lecture by James E. Young. Free. Gindi Auditorium. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. R.S.V.P., (213) 470-3405.

Noy Productions: 8:30 p.m. “Rita: The Concert.” See page 31 for more information.



Ahavah (20s-30s): 7:30 p.m. Shabbat by the Beach potluck dinner for young professional women. $5. Marina Del Rey residence.


April 11

Chapman University: “An evening of Remembrance and Hope” black-tie dinner with Elie Wiesel. For information call (800) 253-8569.



New Age Singles: 4 p.m. No-host movie and dinner in West Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 874-9937.

The New JCC at Milken (21+): 6:30 p.m. Syrah wine tasting. $25 (members), $35 (public). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3269.


Singles Helping Others: 9 a.m.-noon. Sort food items at the SOVA food bank. Light physical activity required. 6027 Reseda Blvd., Reseda. (818) 884-5332.

Elite Jewish Theatre Singles: Noon. American-style Sunday brunch at the Magic Castle. $41.50 (includes admission, brunch, tax and tip). 7001 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. Prepaid reservations only, (310) 203-1312.

Jewish Singles Volleyball: Noon-3 p.m. Weekly coed beach volleyball game. Court 11 or close to it. Playa del Rey, where Culver Boulevard meets the beach.
(310) 402-0099.

Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza: 3 p.m. Israeli singer Noa Dori joins Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble in “Neshama: Stories of the Soul.” $26-$72. 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. (805) 449-2787.

Chef Richard’s: 6 p.m. (reception), 6:45 p.m. (dinner) Family-style Chinese dinner with wine reception. Free parking. $30 (prepaid reservations only). Uncle Chen’s, 16624 Ventura Blvd., Encino. R.S.V.P.,
(818) 995-3455.

New Age Singles: 7 p.m. Starlight Ballroom Dance with mixers and line dances, wine and refreshments. $10-$12. University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 472-1391.

The New JCC at Milken: 8 p.m. Swing dancing workshop with an introduction to jitterbug/East Coast swing, foxtrot, waltz, cha cha, rumba and more. $5-$10. 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills.
(818) 464-3269.

” width=”1″ height=”30″>


Singles Helping Others: 7 p.m. Monthly meeting to socialize, meet others and hear about new events. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 591-0772.

Coffee Talk (30s and 40s): 8 p.m. Weekly discussion group. $7. 9760 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-4595, ext. 27.


L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connection: Pizza supper and conversation at La Piazza for all ages. 6301 W. Third St., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.

Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. “Being real.” $10. West Los Angeles.
(310) 444-8986.


Nexus: Wed., April 6, 7-9 p.m. The first meeting of the Nexus OC book club will discuss Alan Dershowitz’s “The Case For Israel.” Also, Schmooze and Java Coffee House Night happens on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 7-9 p.m. Coffee Plantation, 18122 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley.


Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “Calling in ‘The One.'” $15-$17. 639 26th St., Santa Monica. (310) 393-4616.

UCLA Hillel (18-26): 7 p.m. “Turbo-Dating,” spend seven minutes with seven single guys or gals. Limited seating; first come, first served. Free mocktails and light refreshments. Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P. by Wed., April 6,


Beach Hillel/Jewlicious: 6 p.m.-Sun., April 10. “Jewlicious @ The Beach” a gathering of the tribe weekend with students and young adults from California and Arizona. $36-$100. Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach.

ATID: 7:30 p.m. Friday Night Live Shabbat service and after event with Rapid Networking. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244.

” width=”1″ height=”30″>
” width=”1″ height=”30″>
” width=”1″ height=”30″>

Strike a Jewish Pose

Done with downward-facing dog? Try an Aleph instead. This Sunday, Bat Yam Hadassah’s “Under 50” group does Jewish Yoga. Yoga Garden owner Ida Unger leads a one-hour introductory session in “Yoga and Judaism,” which combines discussion and practice of yoga postures that correspond to letters from the Hebrew alphabet. A social hour and light refreshments follow.

Sun., April 3, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. $18-$20. 30s and 40s. Yoga Garden Studios, 2236 26th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 478-6596.

Human Atonement or Animal Cruelty?

Early morning on the day before Yom Kippur, groups of Jews will be gathering to hold squawking chickens by the feet and twirl them over their head while chanting a prayer. After the twirling, the chickens will be ritually slaughtered and given to the poor.

Kaparos, literally atonements, which has been performed in Los Angeles at the Santa Monica Chabad House and at Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad, is one of the strangest-looking customs in Jewish liturgy. It is done to inspire repentance and to impress upon its adherents the seriousness of Yom Kippur. However, the practice has inspired the ire of animal rights groups, who consider it cruel to the chickens, and many are urging that Jews who practice this custom do so using money instead, which is an acceptable substitute.

Kaparos is not a mitzvah but a post-talmudic minhag (Jewish custom). It originated sometime during the middle ages. The idea was that since the Hebrew word for man (gever) and rooster were the same, a man’s sins — and his punishments — could be symbolically transferred to the rooster, in the same way that during the times of the Temple, people bought animal sacrifices as penance for their sins. Therefore, while slinging the chicken during kaparos, the person chants, "This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. This chicken shall go to its death, and I shall proceed to a good, long life and peace."

Today, some people perform kaparos by swinging a bag of money over their head and then donate that money to charity.

Yet, kaparos is not a substitute for repentance, and it should not be assumed that someone could achieve penance and absolution by having a chicken take the rap for all their transgressions.

"The chicken does not replace me," said Rabbi Shneur Zalman Schmukler, a shochet (ritual slaughterer) who arranges kaparos with chickens at Yeshivat Ohr Elchonon Chabad. "The chicken is an innocent chicken. The chicken will not take the sin away from me, but what the chicken does is impress upon me, that what is happening to the chicken [should be] happening to me and this will arouse in me feelings of teshuvah [repentance]. Watching the chicken get slaughtered awakens you to the physical gravity of Yom Kippur."

Schmukler said that using chickens for kaparos is a deep and mystical kabbalistic custom, that combines the maximizes the forces of chesed (lovingkindness) in the world.

"Early morning is a time when God’s middos hachesed [kind attributes] shine, and the reason we slaughter the chicken is to oppress the powers of gevurah [restrictions]," he said. "Blood is a symbol of anger, because when you are angry the blood goes to your face, and when we take the blood out a chicken, we make a tikkun [spiritual correction] and sweeten the energies of the world. This is what kaparos is on a spiritual level."

But animal rights activist feel that kaparos produces particularly sour physical energy. Los Angeles kaparos locales are often the site of protests and demonstrations against the way the chickens are handled. These activists say that the chickens are cooped up in cages that are too small, without enough air or water, and that chickens are often harmed before they are slaughtered in the general chaotic atmosphere of the kaparos ceremony.

"Typically, we get a whole lot of letters [protesting kaparos] from grass-roots animal-rights groups at this time of year," said Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles (SPCA), a law-enforcement organization. "The theory is if you swing the chickens around, then you can use the chickens to eat. But if the swinging around causes them injury and suffering, then they are no longer qualified for kosher slaughter…. People have found suffering chickens with their necks broken but still alive. We wish that it would stop. While we are constantly assured that they are swung gently, it doesn’t preclude accidents."

Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns (UPC), a Virginia- based organization that, according to their Web site, is "dedicated to the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl," said that her organization has been lobbying the SPCA and rabbis for years to intervene and require some basic humane treatment of kaparos birds.

"It is great if people choose a compassionate alternative, and instead of twirling a chicken they toss up a coin instead," said Matt Prescott, campaign coordinator for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

But Schmukler says that the really proper way to do kaparos is with chickens, and that the protesters are wasting their time.

"People slaughter and eat chickens all over the city," he said. "What is the difference [between us and them]? They should go to packing houses and demonstrate there."

Kaparos with chickens will take place at Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad, 7215 Waring Ave., Los Angeles, on Sunday, Oct. 5, 6 a.m.-noon. For more information, call (323) 937-3763.


Playwright Arje Shaw’s first memory was crawling across the floor, finding a piece of black, moldy bread and dipping the crust in water in order to chew it. He was 18 months old. “I looked like a Biafran baby,” he says.

The time was World War II, the place Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where Shaw’s Polish father had settled after fleeing the Nazis. Before emigrating to America, the family spent three years in a displaced persons camp at Bergen-Belsen.

Shaw’s acclaimed play, “The Gathering,” which opens tomorrow at the Wadsworth Theatre, is all about displacement, about the lingering effects of the Holocaust and the effect it has on the relationship between fathers and sons.

The father and son in the play are Gabe (Hal Linden), a Holocaust survivor, and Stuart (Sam Guncler), a speechwriter for President Reagan, who bitterly argue during the course of the play. The source of their conflict is Reagan’s controversial 1985 visit to a Nazi cemetery in Bitburg, Germany.

Like the fictional survivor, Shaw’s father, also named Gabe, was forced to leave his mother and sister behind after Nazi soldiers nearly beat him to death. His crime: failing to wash a truck in a way that could pass the officer’s white-glove test. They perished in the Holocaust.

Ultimately, Gabe made it to New York, packed in the hold of a refugee ship on stormy seas with his wife, his son and a baby daughter. But as the family settled in a sixth-floor walkup at Avenue C and East Seventh Street, 8-year-old Arje sensed his father’s sadness.

“He had that far-off look,” Shaw, 59, recalled. “He never truly mourned his loss. He kept it all inside of him. And his frustration of having to cope with a new language and culture made him volatile and angry. He was so preoccupied with surviving and sacrificing for his family that he wasn’t emotionally available.”Though Shaw felt emotionally abandoned by his father, he could not help but repeat the cycle with his own wife and daughters. While obsessed with the theater since appearing in plays at Bergen-Belsen at age 6, he earned a master’s degree in social work and went to work for Jewish communal organizations to support his family. “But I was angry that I couldn’t be an artist,” he conceded. “I felt very unfulfilled, and my reaction was a defensiveness, a lack of patience.”

The turning point came in 1986, when Shaw, then in his mid-40’s and the executive director of a New Jersey YM-YWHA , decided to stay home one weekend to write a comedy about his wife’s kosher catering business. “You can’t do that,” she joked. “You can’t write, and you’re not funny.” Undeterred, Shaw rose at 3 a.m. every morning to write the play before going off to his day job. Five years later, “A Catered Affair,” co-written with producer George W. George, debuted off-Broadway.

Shaw’s third play, “The Gathering,” also began as a comedy — until the author discovered he was weeping while he wrote. “Every time I sat down, I was mourning my father’s losses and my losses as a child,” said the author, a veteran of men’s consciousness-raising groups. “I wasn’t satisfied with who I was as a person, and a lot of it was because I was not happy with my relationship with my father,” he added of the genesis of the play. “I felt I finally needed to understand how his life was cut out from under him. I felt I needed to emotionally connect with him while he was still alive.”

As Shaw prepared for a 1999 run of his play at Manhattan’s Jewish Repertory Theater, largely financed by a second mortgage on his home, he sent Gabe two drafts of the script. But he was too intimidated to ask whether his father had read them. On opening night, he was more nervous about Gabe’s response than that of the newspaper critics. “The minute the curtain closed, I raced out to the street to smoke,” he recalled. At the post-performance reception, the taciturn octogenarian hardly said a word. “But his face was all lit up. I could see the love,” says Shaw, whose play ran for five successful months at the Jewish Rep.

Today, “The Gathering” is Broadway-bound, but Shaw chooses to keep his day job at the Y. He still rises at 3 a.m. to write, averaging just four hours of sleep a night. But he finally feels validated as an artist and as a son. “With ‘The Gathering,’ I’ve been able to come to closure and healing with my father,” he said. “We’re much more connected. I just feel him loving me.”

“The Gathering” runs Feb. 3-28 at the Wadsworth, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. For tickets, call (800) 233-3123 or (818) 986-2908 for group rates.